Monday, April 15, 2024

Brazil recalls ambassador to Israel in row over president’s Gaza comments

Brazil has recalled its envoy to Israel, and Tel Aviv says Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is not welcome in the occupied territories, in a diplomatic rift after Lula compared Israel’s military campaign in Gaza to the Holocaust.

“What’s happening in the Gaza Strip with the Palestinian people hasn’t happened at any other moment in history. Actually, it has happened: when Hitler decided to kill the Jews,” Lula said on Sunday.

During World War II, the Nazis systematically killed six million Jewish people.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described Lula’s comments as “disgraceful and grave”.

On Monday, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz announced that Lula is not welcome in Tel Aviv until he takes back his comments.

“We will not forget nor forgive. It is a serious anti-Semitic attack. In my name and the name of the citizens of Israel, tell President Lula that he is persona non grata in Israel until he takes it back,” Katz told Brazil’s ambassador, according to a statement from Katz’s office.

In response, Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced it would summon Israel’s ambassador to Brazil, Daniel Zonshine, for a meeting in Rio de Janeiro.

“He [Brazilian Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira] also recalled the Brazilian ambassador in Tel Aviv, Frederico Meyer, for consultations. He will depart for Brazil tomorrow,” the Foreign Ministry added on Monday.

Meanwhile, Lula, 78, also faced backlash at home over his statements on Sunday, which came during a press conference on the sidelines of an African Union summit in Addis Ababa.

The Brazil-Israel Institute called his comments “vulgar” and warned they risk “fuelling anti-Semitism”.

Lula condemned the Hamas-led October 7 attacks on southern Israel as a “terrorist” act the day it happened, and he has since grown vocally critical of Israel’s retaliatory military campaign in Gaza.

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